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Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Interesting piece by Rich Lowry on how, for Obama, America’s history does not matter, and he does not conceive of himself as a defender of America’s reputation.  For him, it’s practically year zero.  To me this has as much to do with his narcissism as his philosophy. It’s all about him! And if he wasn’t around when America did something–such as the very morally defensible, if disastrous, Bay of Pigs invasion–then it should not matter.

On a related matter, Buchanan notes that the Achilles Heel of Democrats has long been their perceived lack of patriotism, and Obama’s recent road show will not help.  I think this is right, though I also agree (and wrote earlier this week) that America may have changed so much that the old Real America may not be numerous enough to slow him down.  Obama has to show himself a champion of America as a vital, historical entity, not simply as a partisan for a grab-bag of liberal principles.  Bush too got burned on this when he pushed amnesty as aggressively as he did.  I think this will be difficult for Obama, though, because he has almost no experience outside of Chicago and the strange locale of Hawaii.  He is a bit of a stranger to his country, in particular to the values and way of life in its interior. He also lacks affection for much of is past, which, though perhaps understandable, does not make him well suited for sustaining the affection of a great many Americans.

I’m no great fan of torture, particularly in the way it was couched in extreme legalism under the Bush administration.  I feel an aggressive application of the pardon power is the better solution in war time, rather than having such terrible acts done deliberately, with the patina of legality, and the consequent degradation of lawmakers and the law.  But I think it’s profoundly dishonest for Obama and others to say constantly that there is no choice between security and “our values.”  There are choices, and they need to be made and defended honestly based on what they entail.   Obama’s days of voting “present” are over.  I confess, I don’t fully understand the critics’ passion on this issue.  There are times when torture might work in saving Americans from a major disaster; an honest opponent of torture–like an honest defender of civil rights–would acknowledge that there are times when we should suffer in order to follow through on this moral commitment, though I think here the scale of harm is so much greater than ordinary crime that it’s a much closer moral question.  War time, unlike ordinary policing, is a different realm, and this is something the lawyer Obama and his numerous lawyer advisers fail to appreciate.  There is little chance any American citizen would be “tortured.”  The victims are all foreigners of one kind or another, in fact all high ranking al Qaeda members.   So long as “rough interrogations” are directed outward, the harm is confined to strange enemies, not potentially innocent accused Americans.  Further, this talk of “our values” is a little results-oriented and astorical  Our “values” did not prevent some pretty rough treatment of the Indians or Japanese.  Waterboarding was common in Vietnam.  George Washington had military commissions, as did FDR.  So “our values” apparently means “today’s liberal values” for most who invoke this question-begging phrase.  I think Obama also will find out that the various perma-bureaucracies in DC, particularly the CIA, have ways of getting even to perceived disrespect, as evidenced this week by the leakage of memos on the effectiveness of torture in preventing a 9-11 style attack on L.A.

Lucian Reed’s photographic essay of combat in Iraq, particularly with the audio of actual combat, is haunting and powerful.  I found him at the Battle Space photography portal. It’s funny how much the media has dropped Iraq; there’s still a war going on, and those of us in military families can’t afford to “tune out.”

Closer to home, a scathing portrait of Tim Geithner.

The economy still looks pretty grim, and the “bear market rally” of the last few months has been a very low volume play thing of day traders and perpetual bulls, as best I can tell.  One area that is rallying, in spite of drops in commodity prices, is ammunition. While gun prices have dropped some since January, ammo’s getting impossible to find, and price has tripled from 2-3 years ago.  People who used to have a hundred rounds or so sitting around the house are, quite obviously, stockpiling.  This is Obama-inspired, mostly, but it’s also inspired by the general fear out there among the peasantry.  This is or course a smallish market with various impediments to entry and importation, and it’s subject to occasional panics like this one.  Then again, this may be “how it is” so long as a gun-grabber is in the White House.

As a “signs of the times,” perhaps fearful of the devalued dollar, China has assumed a much larger gold position in the last several years.

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Bush’s defense of his more controversial stands in the war on terror has been Clintonian. First, he denies that something is taking place. Then, when that something–in this case, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” is exposed–he simply denies without explanation a reasonable characterization by critics: these techniques constitute torture. Now, I do not support torture. And, more precisely, I do not support official policies that sanction torture. There may be times to forgive ultra vires actions after the fact; this is different from allowing them in advance. These techniques and policies may be defensible. But Bush does not show respect to his critics or the citizens who elected him by providing such a defense. He never says, for instance, these are regrettable incidents of war, truly dirty deeds that are absolutely necessary. Instead, he just repeats: this is necessary, and also this is not torture. No one is fooled, not even his supporters. This kind of rhetoric has been his hallmark in other contexts; for example, he denied that his nation-destroying amnesty proposal was in fact amnesty.

Framing policies is important. There is nothing wrong with describing them in a manner that reasonably describes them in a way that is favorable. But simply denying reality and ignoring critics and proffering labels instead of reasoned arguments is a sign of decline. It’s a sign of decline in the Presidency and also in the citizens who accept this descent into unreason. Reagan, in describing his various controversial policies–the arms race or cutting taxes and spending, for example–did not deny reality, but instead explained how these policies were necessary and likely to work towards the common good. He acknowledged their essence and did not, for lack of a better word, lie.

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